While chatting to a friend about brand strategy over coffee last week (as one does), it occurred to me that as a nation we seem to be in the middle of an identity crisis.
Having left the EU, many people both internally and overseas seem unsure of what that means for us and whether we will still be as much a part of Europe now we are out of the EU.
This is a major issue for a country trying to negotiate stable and beneficial trade deals but it’s not one that’s uncommon.
In business, thinking about identity – and consequently brand – is a daily requirement. Start-ups, for example, must find a way to establish themselves in a highly competitive marketplace, a task which requires a great deal of thought about identity, values and brand positioning.
But advice for building your business brand by following a brand strategy can be relatively difficult to find and most tips out there are based on the assumption that every start-up business has a stable and healthy budget.
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions on developing your start-up branding when there’s a limited amount of money to spend:-
1. Gather Information
Assuming you have your product or service defined and have conducted research into your target market and competitors, you will need to start using this information to build a brand strategy. Assemble the research you’ve already carried out to define a set of values that will resonate with your target market and which set you apart a little from some of the competition. These values will end up permeating everything you do.
2. Learn the basics
Time and time again, we’re told that brand development is about more than just a logo and a name and that’s true; but they’re still things you will need.
Your brand name and logo should tell a story and it should be simple or clear enough that you don’t need to apologise for, or explain it.
Ensure you get a professional graphic designer to handle the logo and typeface for your business – it’ll cost some money upfront but pay dividends when it comes to launching and promoting your services.
Use the values you have identified as part of the design brief. The designer must understand what you stand for and the ‘personality’ of your brand in order to create meaningful graphics.
Some websites cancost thousands of pounds but our start-up advice would be to keep it simple to begin with.
There are ways to keep costs low and still have an appealing, easy-to-use website that will tide you over while you start out – you can always update and improve it as you grow.
Keep the number of pages fairly low if possible – this will save on costs – and ensure every element, from the colour palette to the content, reflects your values and brand story.
4. Market your brand
There are a number of ways to promote your brand as you find your feet without having to spend a lot of money. Here are a couple of effective techniques that you can try:-
- Basic Search Engine Optimisation
Start by checking whether your website is optimised for search engines by ensuring relevant keywords are included in the content and meta data. This is one small factor in a large list that affects your search rankings but goes some way towards improving your chances of getting found.
Additionally, you will need to update your blog content regularly.
This not only has the advantage of providing your web visitors with relevant and informative content on a consistent basis, it also signals to the search engines that your site is active and being updated frequently. This is just another factor that helps to improve your search engine authority and rankings.
Once you have the budget to increase your marketing activity, you can hire an SEO expert or agency to optimise other aspects of your site for search.
This might include anything from improving the page load time to enhancing the site architecture.
- Social Media
Depending on the nature of your business, you may want to set up a social media page too.
The best advice for building your business brand is not to go mad – pick the one platform (two at most) that is most relevant. For example, if you offer B2B services, LinkedIn might be the place to market your business, while a fashion company might be better off with Instagram or Facebook.
Every post should humanise your brand, bringing its personality and values to your customers and allowing them to see the real people behind it. Build a community and offer them interesting and relevant content rather than push adverts and sales messages.
5. Be consistent!
The key to building a good brand strategy is consistency.
So every time you interact with a customer, not just through marketing channels but at every point of contact, have your values in mind. This may require some internal training if you’re hiring staff, so that customer service is of the desired standard across all communication platforms.
You should also be consistent in what you offer, so that customers’ expectations are met and where possible, exceeded.
Ensure the product or service you deliver is of the quality and cost that you say it is in your marketing. Even if you’re not the cheapest on offer, many people will choose reliability and quality over cost.
About Mark Boulter
Mark Boulter is responsible for the efficient running of the firm’s infrastructure, and ensuring that THP delivers the best client service. Promoting the vision and culture across all branches, people are the key: “I like people who have a fresh approach and I’m happy for them to run with their ideas,” he says.
Communication across departments is crucial and Mark pioneers this. He ensure that people and departments not only talk to each other, but that they share ideas– whether they’re about marketing, finance, sales, strategy or any other topic that can result in us offering a better service. “I think helping to develop the next generation of THP people is essential to our success,” Mark adds. “We’ve a lot of talented people and our way of doing things increasingly attracts ambitious newcomers who are looking for a fresh approach. That’s good for us and even better news for our clients.”